Hi! Abby here. You may have noticed in my Mother’s Day post that I mentioned we moved. It’s true! We no longer have a third of an acre on a canyon as our backyard, playground, and chicken farm. It was a fast move, and our edible garden was just getting good on the day we moved.
Our new backyard will have room for some small garden boxes. Which brings me to the question: can you plant new vegetables in the heat of a San Diego summer? Guest blogger, Emily, recently reached out wanting to share some of her knowledge of gardening and conservation. She put together this guide for us with her best tips for planting edible summer plants in Southern California.
Best Edible Summer Plants to Grow in Southern California
Southern California is a unique area with a climate that is varied, ranging from Mediterranean to desert-like conditions. Summers in SoCal are warm and dry with infrequent rain, so growing during the warmest days can be a bit of a challenge. However, overall, Southern California has an amazing climate for growing almost anything.
The average temperature in July is 92 degrees with only .04 inches of precipitation. Fortunately, there are still a number of edible plants that do well in this type of warmer weather and will thrive for you. There are also tweaks you can use to help plants grow better or take root when you transplant them.
1. Choose Plants that Take Heat
The harsh summer sun cooks delicate plants. In the summer, focus on plants that withstand heat, such as sunflowers, beans (like the Anasazis, pictured above) and corn. There are some additional things you can do to help these plants withstand dry conditions, such as regular watering and installing an irrigation system in your garden. Make sure you water early in the morning or early in the evening, so the water doesn’t heat up and further cook your plants.
2. Shade Transplants
When first moving plants to a new edible garden, they are particularly vulnerable. Use screens or taller plants to create shade for these transplants until they fully take root in the soil. Remember that the sun is harsher from June until August, so anything you can do to reduce the intensity a bit, without completely taking it away, will help your new plants. The key to planting in the summer is to do it in the morning or evening when temps are cooler.
3. Plant Melons
Melons tend to love the heat and absorb the sun. While they do need some water, they do okay in drier conditions as long as you give them water occasionally. To see if they need watering, pay attention to the vines and make sure they aren’t drying out too much. The first thing to suffer if the plant gets too dry is the edible part of the plant, or the melon. You can also purchase water stakes that deliver water to the roots of the plant throughout the day.
4. Pick Heat Tolerant Greens
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to grow your own organic salad? Unfortunately, many varieties of lettuce or vulnerable to heat and wilt in the summer sun. There are some heat hardy varieties, such as magenta spreen and calaloo amaranth. Choose varieties that do better in the sun both for garden décor and to make a salad for your next dinner.
5. Start Your Winter Vegetables
In August, start your winter vegetables. Some varieties that do well in the area include cabbage, broccoli, kale, leeks, onions and fava beans. If you’re worried cool weather will arrive sooner rather than later, plant in pots or above ground gardens, so you can easily cover and protect from the cooler nights.
6. Choose Everbearing Strawberries
Southern California grows about 80 percent of the strawberries in America thanks to the perfectly suited soil that drains quickly. Even though it is ideal to plant in cool weather, so that the blooms develop properly, everbearing plants will bear fruit all summer long, giving you fresh berries to enjoy during the warmest days of summer.
Growing Your Edible Garden
Summer is a good time to enjoy the fruits of your edible garden labor. You don’t need a lot of acreage to grow your own garden, either. Even a patio will suffice if you’re willing to go vertical or put plants in pots. Although you’ll need to pay particular attention to how much water plants get, overall the milder weather of Southern California allows you to not only grow fabulous crops in the summer, but to enjoy fresh foods all year long.
About Guest Author, Emily Folk:
Emily is passionate about gardening and is currently working on a three bin composting system. You can read more of her work on her blog, Conservation Folks.